2009 was full of personal trauma and anxiety, yet in the aftermath of every loss or near-loss, there was a quiet zone where I found more time than ever—or maybe I made more time—to pursue music. As always, music is the best.
One effect of the demise of Unrestrained! magazine was that I dropped off the promo gravy train. My mailbox sighed in relief. A lot of guilt lifted as well. I concentrated on writing about music that I actively sought out, researched, and acquired. Without the expectation of advance promos, I tracked release dates and awaited new albums the way I did in the years before this blog. I had fun just being a fan again.
For my year-end round-up, I’ll borrow Metal Mark’s approach and dole out my top 25 list five at a time. But first, I want to acknowledge ten albums that didn’t make the list for various reasons. They’re all excellent records, but through inattention or other factors they never became a vital part of my life for a significant stretch of the year.
35. Eagle Twin—The Unkindness of Crows (Southern Lord) Difficult jazz/sludge from Gentry Densley of Iceburn and Ascend (whom I covered in 2008). The writing and playing on this album is organic and human, but requires further study. My fault for buying it on vinyl, preventing me from listening to it at work. Throw us a download coupon, Southern Lord.
34. Katatonia—Night is the New Day (Peaceville) I didn’t find this to be the masterwork that Mikael Akerfeldt promised, but more of the same from Katatonia is never bad. The ultimate katatonia album should render me a blubbering mess; Last Fair Deal Gone Down is still the one to set the lower lip quivering.
33. Novembers Doom—Into Night's Requiem Infernal (The End) After the fantastic The Novella Reservoir, this album saw Novembers Doom holding steady with the expected mix of fist-clenching doom and forlorn ballads. Seeing them live in Calgary was a highlight of 2009.
32. Slough Feg—Ape Uprising (Cruz del Sur) I liked this much better than what I’d heard from Hardworlder. In fact it’s a gas, a good old-fashioned party record with surplus wit and style. Unfortunately I didn’t party much this year.
31. The Opium Cartel—Night Blooms (Termo) I regret that i didn’t review this properly, but I missed my window of opportunity when the sun was out this summer and this record’s sparkling pop-prog made perfect sense.
30. OM—God is Good (Drag City) There’s no space like OM. It was high time for OM to branch out a bit, and with new drummer Emil Amos on board, God is Good was the perfect chance. They were partially successful on side two, but my initial rush of discovering OM a couple years ago had worn off, leaving me to think that side one was more of the same old thing.
29. Ancestors—Of Sound Mind (Tee Pee) I’m still trying to figure out if this sprawling doom psych successor to Neptune With Fire has any tunes on it. I’m really pulling for it, though.
28. Six Organs of Admittance—Luminous Night (Drag City) It’s Ben Chasny’s fault for releasing two major Six Organs of Admittance albums this year. The first one, RTZ, grabbed all the attention back in February. This album gets played increasingly often, and its bleak songs are slowly winning me over.
27. Steven Wilson—Insurgentes (kscope) This album made a nice change from Wilson’s increasingly predictable work with Porcupine Tree, but it hasn’t had much staying power after I posted my review.
26. PJ Harvey & John Parish—A Woman a Man Walked By (Island) Finally a follow-up to Dance Hall at Louse Point and again it’s fascinating to hear PJH in collaborative mode, wringing songs of beauty, dark humour, and outright horror from Parish’s prickly guitar constructions.